Planet Longhorn seeks to make a small world at UT

Ashley Salinas

When home is oceans and continents away, the transition to college can be difficult. But one organization helps international students find comfort and thrive right here on the 40 Acres.

Planet Longhorn is an organization of multicultural students who come together and help one another adjust to a new life at UT. Founded in 2009, the club unites students from Chile to Russia through social events and excursions in order to introduce members to American culture and celebrate diversity. Planet Longhorn works to ease the transition for its members by welcoming students and assisting with tasks like housing and transport.

Although he was born in Arizona, club president Aman Salaam Mahar, an economics junior, grew up in Pakistan and attended a British international school before he enrolled at UT. He said he felt welcomed by the organization when he arrived at college and enjoyed meeting members from other cultures.

“(Planet Longhorn) unites Longhorns all over the world,” Mahar said. “It’s what our main goal is — to have an international community here at UT.”

Mahar recently studied abroad in London, where he was able to meet with friends he met through Planet Longhorn. He said the experience helped him understand the benefits of having a global network.

“When you join Planet Longhorn, you always have a place to sleep whenever you travel,” Mahar said. “You make bonds that will last beyond the University.”

Advertising junior Diego Mejia lived in Honduras, Barbados and Mexico before he arrived on the 40 Acres. As an international student, he said it is difficult to find a niche
on campus.

“A lot of people that go to UT are from Texas,” Mejia said. “They have friends from high school that they know, but when you come in as an international student, you’re lost. It’s important to have an organization like Planet Longhorn so that you can meet people like you.”

Mejia was introduced to the organization after he attended one of their social events, which range from barbecues to bar tabs. He said he enjoyed his experience because it let him connect to similar people.

“It’s really cool to meet people from all around the world,” Mejia said. “It’s important to celebrate diversity and make people feel included, and Planet Longhorn does that.”

Ciara Seeger, a finance and advertising junior, serves as the club’s vice president. Like Mahar, she attended international schools throughout her life and was drawn to Planet Longhorn’s diversity. She said the organization helps students empathize with people from various backgrounds.

“We try to create a community that is interested in learning about people from different cultures and gaining a lot of different perspectives,” Seeger said. “That’s what makes Planet Longhorn unique.”

The club currently has over 400 members, but the number of international students within UT’s student body remains low. Seeger said she hopes the organization will give a voice to a group that, due to its size, can be easily overlooked.

“The international community is a minority, and I think having representation is fundamental,” Seeger said. “It’s great to have that representation through all of these different organizations who work with UT’s International Office.”

Although moving to a new country can be difficult, Seeger said she hopes members feel open to come to the organization with any concerns.

“It’s important for international students to know that no matter what issues or controversies come up, you have a community that will support you,” Seeger said.